Wage and hour laws are the state and federal regulations that govern the employer-employee relationship. These laws cover such things as minimum hourly wages, breaks, overtime and sick leave. Since employers are required to remain compliant with state and federal employment laws, it is important that they have some basic understanding of what these laws entail.
Minimum Wage in Massachusetts
Massachusetts has a minimum wage of $10 per hour. This is $2.75 higher than the current federal minimum wage of $7.25. Employees working in agriculture, floriculture and horticulture are required to be paid a minimum wage of $8.00.
Minimum Wage of Tipped Workers: For employees who receive more than $20 a month in tips, the minimum wage is $3.35 per hour. In order for employees to be paid this rate, they must receive at least the minimum wage when their hourly wages and tips are combined.
Does Minimum Wage Apply to Me: In Massachusetts, minimum wage law will apply to most employers. Exemptions do exist, and include members of religious orders, service professionals and outside salespersons. Employers can contact the Massachusetts Department of Labor and Workforce Development for more information on minimum wage requirements.
When Are Raises Required: Massachusetts law has no provisions regarding when to give an employee a raise. Raises are supplied at the discretion of the employer and are usually based on several different factors.
Work Hours in Massachusetts
Neither Massachusetts law nor federal law limits the number of hours an employee can work. An employer is under no obligation to give an employee a minimum or maximum number of hours, and the hours can be changed at the employer’s discretion. In Massachusetts, restrictions on work hours only exist for employees who are minors.
Paying Overtime: State law requires employers to pay their employees 1.5 times their regular hourly rate for all hours worked over 40 per week. Tipped employees are exempt from overtime pay under Massachusetts law, but federal overtime regulations may still apply if the employee works more than 40 hours per week. Some categories of employees are exempt from the state overtime requirement and include, but are not limited to, executive professionals, certain domestic workers, seasonal workers and seamen.
Guaranteed Breaks and Meals: Employers must provide any employee who works for a period of more than six hours a 30-minute meal break. If the employee works through her or his meal break or agrees to remain on the premises for her or his meal break, he or she must be compensated for that time. Exemptions exist for certain mill and factory workers, letterpress and print employees and bleaching or dyeing workers. Under federal law, nursing mothers are entitled to break time to express milk for up to a year after giving birth.
Paid Time-off and Sick Pay: Federal law does not cover paid time off or sick pay.
While Massachusetts law does not govern vacation time, it does specifically cover sick pay. Employees in Massachusetts can earn and use up to 40 hours of sick leave each year. One hour of sick time is earned for every 30 hours of work. Sick time can be used by an employee after his or her first 90 days of work. Sick time may also be used by an employee to care for a child, spouse or parent, or to deal with domestic violence issues. For companies with 11 or more employees, this sick time must be paid. The sick time may be unpaid if an employer has 10 or fewer employees.
Notice Period for Employee Termination: Massachusetts is an “at-will” employment state, meaning an employer or employee can terminate the working relationship at any time either party wishes for any reason whatsoever. If an employment contract is place, the terms of that contract must be adhered to.
Plant Closings & Layoffs: Employees in Massachusetts are covered under the federal law regarding plant closings and layoffs, which provides for 60 days’ notice to workers if the company has at least 100 full-time employees and at least 100 employees who work a combined 4,000 hours per week. Massachusetts law does suggest 90 days’ notice if the company receives funding from a quasi-governmental agency; however, this timeframe for providing notice is voluntary.
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